"dessert"

A Pie for Mikey

You start out with an idea, a concept of where you want to take it. A taste, a feel, a look. A finished product to be savoured and enjoyed. Something to share, to show off, to take pride in.


You gather the things to make it, and you bring them close. You handle them, you edit, you cut, you taste. Add heat, maybe some sizzle, and quite often a long simmer. At many times will you season, highlighting the flavours and subsequent adventure.


Usually it gets messy. You are either the type of person who cleans as they go or the kind that has a third hand following them washing and wiping as you move. It doesn't matter, as long as you address the mess at some point.




Eventually you sit to enjoy. It isn't necessarily what you expected it to be. Sometimes it doesn't work and you have to start over tomorrow. Quite often it's better. Much better than expected.


One day it explodes. The pleasure is insatiable. The joy immeasurable. On another day it is more subtle, simple. It is good, but not great. The pleasure and peace, however, is there. It's lingering and comforting. Perfect.


At least, this is how my marriage feels.


My husband is my best friend and an incredible man. Kind, generous, a little bit wicked. Committed, driven, and horribly sarcastic. He owns his own business and used to race mountain bikes. But I always thought I'd marry a professor or snooty intellectual. We'd live in an old house filled with books and no kids. Obviously that isn't what I've got.


My man in my life and our marriage came about like a farmers' market dinner. One day you find something that looks fantastic and you go with it. And so we have, experimenting along the way. Some days it explodes with pleasure and some days it is lingering and comforting. Perfect.


Imagining a life without my husband nearly stops my breath. Cold.


And now there is a colleague, a friend I met through blogging, who is living this fresh hell right now. Her husband, the father of her two little girls, suddenly collapsed and died last week. She is feeling the immeasurable pain of loss, the unimaginable.


This pie is for Mikey, for her, for their girls. This pie was his favourite and it deserves a celebration. As does he, as does the love he and Jennie shared. Their recipe gave the world this pie. Let's celebrate.


The food blogging community - including those who live close to Jennie and are lucky enough to share a drink and pizza with her - are gathering around her right now. This is community. Today we are making pie. People the world over are taking Jennie and Mike's pie and making it for their own loved ones. They are adapting the pie for themselves, making the recipe for their own loves. In doing so we celebrate a man, relationships, and the spirit of adventure in love, cooking, and life.






Hula Hoops and Strawberry Shortcake



We ate strawberry shortcake for dinner the other night. Not for dessert, but for dinner. Just strawberry shortcake for dinner. And it was awesome.

Okay, I may have been more excited about it than the girls (Hubby was away). They ate their strawberries, picked at the shortcake and licked some of the cream. The Monster thought the macerated strawberries were a fun treat - I can suck out their juices like Jello, Mama!

I may have, ahem, finished theirs as well as mine.

And you know what? I don't feel guilty about this at all. It was a celebration of all that is awesome about summer. Days that involved nothing more than swinging, water fights, and mastering the Hula Hoop for the first time. Days that have your three year old running around the block naked because her clothes got wet and it's too much work to go inside and get new clothes. Days that end with dessert for dinner eaten outside with the sun in your eyes.


Strawberry Shortcake includes fruits, grains, and dairy. If that combo is more than okay for breakfast it is certainly fine for dinner. Of course, ice cream is also fine for dinner. Along with popcorn, pancakes, and cottage cheese with fruit salad. Dinner does not have to involve a protein, a vegetable, and a starch to be dinner.

Dinner has to be the gathering around the table; the moment when we stop, just for a second, to be together as a family. It is the time when we listen to a 5 year stammer through her excitement, the time we discuss pirates, a balanced diet, and why we can't fly to Australia for a day. It's the moment we refuel so the rest of the summer night can be spent with the Hula Hoop.

If I want to serve only dessert for dinner on a nearly perfect summer day, so be it. If you want to, then go for it. And if anyone complains or judges, then send them to me. I'll set them straight with shortcake.


This strawberry shortcake was probably the best I've ever made. I've made the shortcake a few times now, the recipe comes from Baking, by Dorie Greenspan. I've adjusted it to a more reasonable size for our family. It is about the flakiest, most balanced little biscuit cake in the world. Crumbly and fine, but with enough structure to hold up to juicy strawberries and ever so lightly sweetened cream.

Strawberry Shortcake for Dinner
Makes 6 shortcakes

1 cup flour
1/3 cup whole grain flour*
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tonka bean, grated (optional)
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
1/2 cups cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silicon mat.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2'' cubes. Using your hands, two knives, or a pastry cutter smash the butter together with the dry ingredients. I use my hands and squish it through my fingers. My 3 year old helps. It takes only a minute or two and the dough starts to look like a mix of flakes, crumbs, and tiny knobs of crumbly butter.

Remove your hands from the bowl, grab a fork, and pour in the cream. Stir together. If necessary, use your hands again to get it all to come together. The dough will be sticky.

Spoon into 6 piles on your prepared sheet. Shape a little and press down gently so they are no more than 1'' high. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Let cool for a couple of minutes on pan, then cool for a few more on wire rack.

To make the shortcakes you also need strawberries. Any other summer fruit would also work. Go with what's fresh and in season for you.

2 cups clean and sliced strawberries
1 Tbsp sugar

Combine the berries and sugar, let sit while the shortcakes and baking and cooling.

1 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Whip the cream until peaks are just starting to form. Add the sugar and vanilla, whip until lightly firm.

To serve, top a cooled shortcake with a generous scoop of berries and top with a large dollop of whipped cream.

*I used my favourite, Gold Forest Grains, but you can simply use all-purpose flour for the entire amount.


Just Icing

Icing on a spoon.

Having been to my fair share of preschool birthday parties this year I've noticed that very few kids eat the cake when served to them. Sure, they are beyond excited when you take them away from their play with a call for cake. They eagerly sing Happy Birthday and watch the star blow out the candle. Then using fingers or fork or just their tongue all the icing disappears from the cake. All that's left is a soggy, messy pile of crumbs.

It doesn't matter that you stayed up until 2 am to make them the princess or pirate cake they begged for. It doesn't matter that you baked a gorgeous vanilla cherry cake with a recipe from Martha or Dorie Greenspan. All they want is the icing, or frosting, if that's what you call it. And then it doesn't matter if it is a gorgeous buttercream or from a can.

Instead of having wasted cake, get proactive. Just give them the icing on a spoon. Trust me, everyone is happy with this solution. Well, except maybe some parents who get worked up about sugar. But they are counterbalanced by those who are eager for a spoon of their own.

You might still need a cake because I haven't solved the problem of where to put the candles. Besides, they'll always be that one kid who hates icing.

With great thanks to some of my Twitter pals for the influence and egging on my icing only idea.

And Happy Birthday to my Mom, Brother, Brother-in-Law, and Sister-in-Law's Mum this week!

Chocolate Cake for Friends and Neighbours

Do you know your neighbours?

Will they shovel your walk? Will you shovel theirs? Have you had backyard happy hour together? Built a really nice fence? Even chatted with them?

We've got some really fantastic neighbours (and one not so nice one). Once they got past the fact that we indeed were a couple old enough to own a house and not siblings living with our parents we've got along great. They babysit the girls, we watch each other's pets, and generally look out for each other. It is because of our neighbours, in large part, that we are renovating instead of moving.

So when we came home with a new washer and dryer today Poppa came over to help us get it into the house. No, we didn't make him do the heavy lifting! As I was already making dinner we invited them to join us. Besides, how much ham can two adults and the girls eat?

We pigged out, literally, on Spragg Meats ham, sauteed kale, and lentils with roasted squash and caramelized onions. I was going to be all healthy and serve a citrus salad for dessert, but it seemed more special to make a cake. Our neighbours definitely deserved cake.

This recipe was created for the latest issue of What's Up Families. I wrote a feature article on gluten free cooking. It was a great challenge for me. And a great opportunity to interview Lauren over at Celiac Teen and her family for the article. Very inspiring to see her family together and her love for baking. While Lauren isn't quite close enough to be my neighbour (but luckily still close), I would happily share this cake with her. (Check out the issue for more GF recipes.)

Hazelnut Flourless Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup plus 1 tsp cocoa
4 ounces chocolate
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, finely crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8'' round cake pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom, place inside the buttered pan, and butter that too. Use the 1 tsp of cocoa to dust the parchment lines pan.
2. Chop the chocolate and melt with the butter in a bowl set atop of a pot of simmering water. Once melted remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
3. While the chocolate is cooling whip the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add in 1/4 cup sugar and beat until glossy and stiff peaks form.
4. Add the egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla to the melted chocolate. Stir well. Add the hazelnuts. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten the batter. Carefully fold in the remaining whites. Stop as soon as you don't see white. Pour into prepared pan.
5. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Best served warm.